Thursday, August 27, 2020

Brainstorm 215: Komodo Dragon Lovers

This summer I talked to several young people who are a bit obsessed with lizards, which reminded me of 2 fictitious characters and 1 real person. All three of these books involve characters/people who are a bit obsessed with lizards too. In fact, they are all obsessed with the biggest lizards, Komodo dragons. The two characters want to have a pet Komodo dragon. The real person did groundbreaking work with Komodo dragons. So here are some books for those kids (and kids at heart) you and I know who may have a touch of ophidiomania or aspirations to become a herpetologist.

Boris Gets a Lizard (Boris, #2) by Andrew Joyner

Boris is obsessed with Komodo dragons. Every Tuesday in class he talks about them. Boris is convinced he wants one as a pet, and he writes what he is sure is a very convincing letter to the zoo letting them know that their Komodo dragon can come have a vacation at his house. He starts spreading the word that he's getting a Komodo dragon at his house that weekend. But what will the weekend bring?

Target Readers:

Reptile Lovers, Beginning Chapter Book Readers, Read Aloud Fans, Animal Lovers, Lower Grade Readers

Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor by Patricia Valdez, ill. by Felicita Sala

A picture book biography of Joan Procter who worked with reptiles in the Natural History Museum in London and then the London Zoo in the early 1900s. Procter was one of the first people to really get to study Komodo dragons for any length of time, so she made monumental discoveries regarding that species.

Target Readers:

Reptile Lovers, Picture Book Biography Fans, Female Scientist Fans, Fans of Stories of People Who Succeeded Despite Chronic Illness, Lower Grade Readers on up

Samantha Spinner and the Spectacular Specs (Samantha Spinner, #2) by Russell Ginns

After discovering the secrets of her unusual umbrella inheritance from Uncle Paul and avoiding the machinations of a secret organization bound to get their hands on it, now Samantha’s found a pair of purple sunglasses in the table leg at home and a warning to watch out for the SUN. The glasses lead her and Nipper on further world travels while they try to figure out where Uncle Paul has gone (because they are now pretty sure he isn't dead). Meanwhile, their older sister is insisting the family help with her Broadway show since her producer disappeared. And Nipper is determined to somehow get his New York Yankees back from their diabolical little neighbor girl. Oh, and he ordered a gross of chinchillas to help cheer up Samantha and now he needs to figure out how to deal with them. 

Nipper also takes a teensy detour while he and Samantha are in Indonesia on one of their stops chasing down clues and snatches himself his secret dream pet. Boris would be jealous. But the fallout is hilarious and cautionary for those who think they want to bring a Komodo dragon home.

Target Readers:

Puzzle/Code Sleuths, Worldwide Travel Fans, Humor Fans, Wildly Imaginative Story Fans, Reluctant Readers, Middle Grade Readers on up

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Brainstorm 214: Back to School with a Little Something for Every Subject

It’s the first week back to school here, and it’s amazing to see students and fellow teachers in real life again. I thought we’d start off this new season of the Brainstorm with a little something for each subject. I tried to pick books that are fairly recent to our libraries. For some of these I couldn't choose between an upper level read or a lower level read, so I included both. After each summary I have written LG if it is aimed at lower grades (K-3), MG if it is aimed at middle grades (3-8), and YA if it is aimed at teens. YA+ means it is written for adults but accessible for teens. Here's to a great new school year of reading!


The Crayon Man: the True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons by Natascha Biebow, ill. by Steven Salerno

A picture book biography about the man and his team who invented crayons. LG

Maya Lin: Thinking with Her Hands by Susan Goldman Rubin

A biography of the artist who designed the Vietnam War Memorial and other art pieces with purpose. YA


Why God?: Big Answers about God and Why We Believe in Him by Dan DeWitt, ill. by Christine Grove

A picture book featuring two kids asking their Mom questions about God, and she gives them some things to think about. LG


Rebooting AI: Building Artificial Intelligence We Can Trust by Gary F. Marcus & Ernest Davis

A realistic look at the current abilities and limitations of modern AI and the author's suggestions about what needs to happen in order to get AI to the place where it could take care of household chores or put Grandpa to bed without calamity. YA+


How to Read a Book by Kwame Alexander, ill. by Melissa Sweet

A picture book poetic ode to reading. LG

In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri, translated by Ann Goldstein

A exploration of language learning, living overseas, and writing in your family’s language vs your school language vs a language you learned by choice. YA+

Learning Support/Life Skills

This Beach Is Loud! by Samantha Cotterill

A little boy sensory issues is SUPER excited to go the beach. But when he and his dad finally get there, he doesn't like the texture of the sand and all the noise is a bit overwhelming. Is the day ruined, or can he enjoy the beach?

Funny, You Don’t Look Autistic: a Comedian’s Guide to Life on the Spectrum by Michael McCreary

Comedian Michael McCreary shares about his life, how he was diagnosed with autism, what it was like for him at home and at school, how he found his way into comedy, and along the way how his brain works and the range of ways someone on the spectrum views the world. YA


Just Like Beverly: a Biography of Beverly Cleary by Vicki Conrad, ill. by David Hohn

A picture book biography of librarian and children’s author, Beverly Cleary. LG


What’s Your Favorite Food? by Eric Carle, et al

Eric Carle and 13 other illustrators share their favorite foods. LG


How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems by Randall Munroe

Randall Munroe is back with scientifically-sound, mathematically-demonstrated answers for the most ridiculous ways to do things. (And interspersed with humorous stick figure illustrations of said situations.) If you've ever wondered how to build your own lava moat and keep your house cool, which kind of professional athlete you should employ to take down a drone fastest, or the most ridiculous way to move your house, look no further. YA+


Because by Mo Willems, ill. by Amber Ren

A trail of causes and effects, becauses, of how an orchestra came together to play a certain piece and how a girl ended up at that concert and was changed. LG


All or Nothing (Bird & Squirrel, #6) by James Burks

Bird and Squirrel enter one epic adventure race and learn a lot about perseverance, teamwork, good sportsmanship, and what is truly important along the way. MG


Cat’s Café: a Comics Collection by Matt Tarpley

A collection of comics about Cat who runs a café, provides for the caffeine needs of others, but more importantly provides a safe place where everyone can be real, get emotional support, and connect with others. MG-YA+


Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life: Hollywood Legend and Brilliant Inventor by Laurie Wallmark, ill. by Katy Wu

A picture book biography of actress and inventor Hedy Lamarr. LG-MG

The Mars Challenge: the Past, Present, and Future of Human Spaceflight by Alison Wilgus, ill. by Wyeth Yates

Through the conversations of an eager teen who wants to go to Mars and an adult scientist, readers learn all the hurdles that need to be passed before humans are ready for a manned mission to Mars, from overcoming the headaches gravity poses to figuring out how to keep humans alive once they get there and everything in between. MG-YA

Social Studies/History

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander, ill. by Kadir Nelson

A poetic ode to African Americans of the past and future, highlighting the hurdles they have overcome and their resilience despite the hardships they have faced. LG-YA

Spies: the Secret Showdown between America and Russia by Marc Favreau

A history of spycraft between the USSR and the USA during the Cold War. YA

Theater Arts

Josephine Baker by Mª Isabel Sánchez Vegara ; ill. by Agathe Sorlet

A succinct picture book biography of the dancer, actress, spy, and civil rights activist. LG

Midsummer's Mayhem by Rajani LaRocca

Mimi doesn't feel like she belongs in her artsy/musical/sporty racially-blended family. The only thing she feels somewhat competent is baking. But as soon as she enters a baking competition her whole family starts to get seriously stranger. This is a marvelous rewrite of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer's Night Dream" in terms modern kids can understand and relate to. Actual Shakespeare lines get to be woven in because Mimi's brother is currently in a production of the play and constantly is spouting lines of it. And he also breaks down the plot of the play for Mimi at various points, so readers can catch the parallels even if they've never read or seen the original. MG